How to Text from your Mac

"Wait, are those your texts on your computer!?"

Robin and I just started talking about all the issues she was having with syncing her contacts and calendars because she has multiple iCloud and Gmail accounts and stuff is everywhere! I pulled up my machine to show her how I keep everything under control with my 5 accounts when she saw my text messages on my computer. "Wait, are those your texts on your computer!?" Pump the brakes, she doesn't have iMessage set up on her Mac yet! Looks like syncing will wait a few minutes!

Just about every time I sit down with a client for the first time and we start talking about iCloud, Dropbox etc., this question about sending texts comes up. Here I've included instructions on how to set up iMessage, Apple's texting service, below. If you want to learn more about how it works and some of the quirks, read on. Please be aware the Messages app only works on Macs with Mountain Lion or Mavericks.

iMessage Basics

The first thing you'll want to know is that iMessage is not the exact same thing as texting. Text messages are sent through your phone carrier and traditionally you pay for so many messages per month or for unlimited. iMessage uses the internet and bypasses the your cellular network, which is why you can use it on an iPad and Mac. This translates to you being able to send messages to anyone in the world with an Apple device as long as you have an internet connection, and it’s all free. So if you're on wifi, or you have a data plan on your iPhone or iPad, you're good to go.

Since iMessage is an Apple service, they have made it so that it will only work for Apple devices. You may notice when you send a message to a friend, sometimes they’re green and sometimes the message is blue. Blue means you’re using iMessage. Green means the message is being sent as a text message, and counts toward your texts. Most likely if your texts are green the recipient is not using an iPhone, but that’s not always the case. Some of your friends and colleagues may not have iMessage enabled on their iPhones since it’s an optional service.

I think one of the coolest things about using iMessage on your Mac is that it has a much larger attachment limit than email. To be safe when sending email attachments, the rule of thumb is to keep the file size less than 10 MB. Just recently I had a client that received a 91 MB attachment with iMessage. The Messages app on your Mac also keeps in sync with the iMessages on your mobile devices (the blue ones).

How to set it up

The first thing you're going to want to do is check the settings on all your Apple devices to see what is already set up so you can match up the settings. The trick to figuring out why things aren't syncing properly is to check each device and see what account is signed into that service. This is a little confusing, but you need to know that you can set up different accounts for iCloud, iMessage, FaceTime, and the iTunes Store. I am not suggesting you do that, Apple has just given you the option to customize it to fit you.

The screenshots below are taken from Apple's page featuring Messages.  You'll want to make sure you are sending and receiving from your phone number as well as your email.

iPhone and iPad Initial Setup

Mac Setup

Once you've made sure your mobile devices are setup, it's time to do the same thing on the Mac. If you've never opened the Messages app on your Mac it will look like this. Fill in the same email and password you are using for iMessage on your mobile device.

If you didn't set up iMessage on your iPhone it will look something like this on your Mac.

If iMessage is set up properly on your iPhone, you'll see something like this after you've entered your username and password. You'll notice there is the phone number in addition to the email address. At the bottom of that window you'll see "Start new conversations from:". Pick your phone number from that list to make sure everything is consistent. If you've already set up the Messages app before open the Messages app, then click on the Messages menu at the top of the screen and click Preferences. This window will appear.

At this point, if you set up iMessage on your iPhone you'll see your phone number listed here and you're good to go! If you don't have an iPhone you'll only see your email address. It's not going to back sync all of your old messages onto your Mac, I wish it would, but all your new messages should be syncing between devices!

Question: Do you use iMessage or another texting application on your Mac? If so, what's your favorite thing about it?